The second week of January is the best time to fool Mother Nature. Sneak outside and harvest bare branches from forsythia, quince and cherry trees and then plunge the cut stems into a vase of warm water and watch spring unfold.
Winter is also the best time to grab a hot drink, nestle in front of the fireplace and begin your own gardening study sessions. Teaching yourself more about plants, growing vegetables and designing a great garden is as simple as looking at a catalog.
This is because the seed and plant catalogs are full of accurate, updated and free information. Many have excellent inspirational photographs as well.
So depending on your personality, garden goals and growing conditions, here are the seed and garden catalogs I recommend.
FOR BEGINNING VEGETABLE GARDENERS
Ed Hume seeds: You’ll find an excellent online catalog at www.edhumeseeds.com, and I send beginning, advanced, serious and hobby gardeners to this site because Ed Hume has spent a lifetime gardening in our climate and recommends only short-season varieties of flower, vegetable and herb seeds.
The extra bonus of this site is that you can order Ed Hume’s book, his planting-by-the-moon guide and my personal favorite, the bird flash tape that I also use to keep the deer from wandering into my garden. Surf through this Web site all winter long, and by spring, you’ll be an expert on what grows best in Western Washington. Yes, these are the same seeds sold at local nurseries and garden centers, so if you aren’t comfortable ordering online, you can still take your time, study the varieties online and then buy Ed Hume seeds at your local nursery.
FOR NUTTY, FRUITY GARDENERS
Raintree Nursery: Offering the finest fruit cultivars from around the world, this colorful catalog and Web site (www.raintreenursery.com) will teach you not only what berries and fruits are easiest to grow here, but also introduce you to some more unusual food crops such as serviceberry, sea buckhorn paw paws and hops. A local company out of Morton, the Web site if full of regional growing information, but go online and request a free catalog anyway – you’ll love the photos of luscious berries and blemish-free fruits and be inspired to try the growing the unusual nuts, bamboos and ornamentals. Eucalyptus trees, English roses, deer fencing and orchard supplies like organic apple maggot controls are all to be found on the pages of the Raintree catalog.
FOR DESIGNERS AND FLOWER LOVERS
White Flower Farm Garden Book: I still can’t believe such a beautiful catalog is sent free to anyone that asks. Flipping through these gorgeous pages is a bit like looking at plant pornography, but you’ll be learning plant names, plant combinations and a bit of growing advice as you enjoy this not-so-guilty pleasure. The excellent nursery is all the way back in Litchfield, Conn., but you can take your catalog to any local nursery and use it as a guide to pick out the very same plant varieties but locally grown.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. For gardening questions, write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, WA 98022. Please send a SASE for a personal reply. She also can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.